Providencia, Colombia

by Susan on April 4, 2012

March 26, 2012

We left San Andres with Trumpeter and Island Dreamin’ at 3:00 a.m. and slowly navigated our way through the channel which was a piece of cake because it was so well-marked.  Our 61 mile passage to Providencia was almost perfect – a beautiful sunny day, no seas to speak of, the wind was pretty much on the nose so we had to motor-sail but all around it was a comfortable passage.

In the Company of Our Playful Friends

Getting in to the anchorage was easy; like San Andres the channel was well-marked.  Once we got anchored, Mr. Bush, the agent in Providencia, advised he would not be able to see us till the following day so we all dinghied over to grab a bite to eat at a bayside restaurant on Santa Catalina Island called Bamboo Sea Food.  Santa Catalina is a smaller island connected to Providencia by a wooden pedestrian bridge (Lover’s Bridge) and our anchorage in Santa Isabel Bay was in between the two.  Bamboo Sea Food became our home away from home for the duration of our stay.   Managed by a lovely couple named Orville and Rel, they were perfect ambassadors for their island.  Incredibly warm, generous, helpful, and trusting, they made us and the whole fleet feel like family.

Heading to Santa Catalina Island; Behind Us Is Split Hill, Better Known to the Locals as "Morgan's Ass"

Bamboo Seafood

Orville and Rel from Bamboo Seafood

Local Fishermen

Dinghy Dock in Front of Bamboo Seafood

Footpath on Catalina Island Leading to Fort Warwick

Heading Back to Our Boats After Dinner at Bamboo Seafood

Our next morning was spent checking in, which turned out to be a longer process than anticipated.  Though we were instructed to meet Mr. Bush at 9:00 a.m., the Port Captain was unable to make the appointment requiring us to return later in the morning.  We took the opportunity to walk around the small town to check out what kind of provisioning was available, sample pastries from the local bakery and then locate what appeared to be the only internet café in town where we could take care of other business while we waited.

Santa Isabel Village

Santa Isabel Village

Main Dock in Providencia

Dinghy Dock Adjacent to Main Dock

Once the paperwork was out of the way, we spent the early afternoon snorkeling in the crystal clear waters off Santa Catalina Island with Trumpeter and Island Dreamin’ after which we headed over to Bamboo Seafood.  While the boys drank beer and took advantage of the available internet, the girls spent the afternoon with Rel who gave us a  hands-on cooking lesson showing us how to prepare the wonderful mahi mahi dish she had made the night before.  Once prepared, we all shared the feast.

Finding a Place to Drop Anchor

Snorkeling at Santa Catalina Island

Heading Back

Rel, Cook Extraordinaire

Chow Time

The following day we rented motor scooters and drove around the island with Trumpeter, stopping often to eat, drink, talk to the locals, take photos and soak up the unspoiled beauty of this island.

It's Not a Harley But It Will Do

Scooters are Perfect for this Little Island

Providencia is a gem in the NW Caribbean.  It’s small, it’s clean, it’s safe, it’s beautiful and the people are warm and friendly.  It offers pristine beaches and superb snorkeling and diving.  It is populated by approximately 5,000 people who take pride in the beauty and laid-back lifestyle of their island and are determined to prevent it from getting overdeveloped.  There are no buildings higher than two stories here.  They also don’t allow foreigners to own land or businesses here.

During our tour we stopped at Felipe’s Dive Service in Freshwater Bay where Michael and I scheduled our dive for the next day with Felipe.  He was highly recommended by our friends on Zeppelin who are avid divers so picking the dive service was a no-brainer.  Later in the afternoon we hooked up with Island Dreamin’ and Silver Sea who were tooling around in a golf cart and went to Roland’s Raggae Bar on Manzanillo Beach for lunch and some cold drinks.  The bar is run by a legendary, friendly local Rasta named Roland, and is one of the most popular spots on the island for beach parties and live raggae music.  After making one more stop at Miss Elma’s for yet another round of drinks, we finally called it a day and headed back to town to return the scooter.

Typical Island House

Felipe's Dive Shop

Felipe

Anna and Gary (Trumpeter)

Bob, Jeannie (Island Dreamin') and George and Pixie (Silver Seas)

Roland's Raggae Bar

Roland of Roland's Bar - Still a Rasta Though He Cut His Dreads

Still at Roland's

Table at Roland's

Crab Cay

The following morning Felipe picked us up at our boat for our scheduled dive.  I knew we were going to a dive site where we would (hopefully) see sharks.  We specifically requested the experience after hearing about it from Zeppelin.   The site was on the outside of Santa Catalina Island and it truly felt like we were in the middle of the ocean, unlike the protected, calm dive-sites of Bocas del Toro.  The water on the surface was rough with choppy waves hitting me upside the head, so getting my mask on properly was a challenge.  Once we submerged, I had even more trouble with my mask.  I kept getting water in it and couldn’t blow it out. I could feel the panic building fully aware that these weren’t the shallow waters I was accustomed to.  We were diving to 80 feet.  Fortunately, both Felipe and Michael noticed and were by my side to keep me calm and get me to the surface.  Once on the surface, I exchanged masks with Felipe and then resumed the dive.  That mask was better but I was still having to clear my mask often.  I made a mental note to buy my own mask soon so I wouldn’t have to waste so much precious time.

Waiting for Our Dive Boat

Felipe Approaching

Getting Ready to Pick Us Up

Nothing Like Door to Door Service

The dive, despite the murky water that day, was amazing.  Felipe speared lion fish to lure the sharks.  Slowly, they started emerging from the depths and circling around us, below us, getting closer and closer to Felipe until one would finally grab the lion fish.  I was remarkably calm.  These were black tip reef sharks and are not known to be aggressive but they can still be dangerous.  They were sharks after all.  The dive seemed to end too fast and before we knew it, it was time to surface.  Getting back on the boat was another challenge because of the rough waters and I found myself getting very nervous.  Swimming with the sharks where I could see them was one thing but being on the surface with my legs and arms thrashing about, knowing there were sharks below me was unsettling.  We managed to get on the boat without incident though and headed to the dive shop to change tanks.

I Think I See A Shark

Those Sharks Look Hungry

Felipe Feeding Lion Fish to the Sharks

I Can't Believe We're Doing This

Our second dive was in much shallower water.  During this dive we were surrounded with large schools of yellow fish.  They were mesmerizing.  At one point I was so taken with them that I started swimming with them.  Michael said he turned around and all he could see were my fins slowly disappearing in the distance.  Once he caught up with me I was shocked to discover that I could see no one else from the dive. Everyone else had headed back to the boat.  Thank God for my dive buddy or I might have been shark food.

A School of Fish on Our Second Dive

In preparation for our upcoming departure, we took one day to provision in town and get fuel for the boat.  There are no fuel docks here.  In order to get diesel, we dinghied over to a beach to get as close as we could to the filling station.  I stayed with the dinghy to guard it, while Michael carried four jerry jugs up a hill, and walked up the road a ways until he found the station.  In hindsight, I don’t know why I stayed behind.  I doubt anyone would have molested our dinghy but after our time in Bocas with outboards disappearing on a regular basis, we didn’t want to take any chances.  On his way back, a local on his scooter saw him struggling with the jugs and offered him a ride which he gratefully accepted.  The driver held a jerry jug in one hand and drove with the other while Michael balanced the remaining three on his lap in the back seat.  I’m sorry to say I missed this photo opportunity.  Michael said it looked like they were auditioning for the Ringling Brothers.

On Saturdays local horse owners race their horses on South West Bay beach so the entire fleet headed down there to watch the spectacle.  Most of us piled in a prearranged taxi ride in a pickup truck big enough to accommodate us while others rented scooters for transportation.  After being dropped off,  we walked down an incline to the shore and leisurely walked down the beautiful long stretch of white sandy beach until we found the restaurant that was highly recommended by Mr. Bush, the El Niño Divino restaurant, popular for its huge tasty platter of fish, lobster, crab, shrimp and conch.  We got a table with other cruisers, ordered our Plato Mixto and enjoyed the festive environment as we waited for the race.  Hordes of people crowd this otherwise deserted beach to watch and bet on these races so there was a lot of excitement around us.

Piling in the "Taxi"

Plato Mixto

We got the cue that the race was about to begin when a large group of people started running up the beach to the starting line.  By the time we got our cameras ready, the winning horse was racing towards us unchallenged.  We’re not sure what happened since the crowd was blocking our view at the beginning of the race, but somehow the losing horse ran into the water and his jockey was unable to get him back on the beach until after the race was over.

Waiting for the Race to Begin

What Happened to the Other Horse?

And the Winner Is . . .

The event was quick but our lunch at El Niño Divino gave us the opportunity to meet some lovely new friends from France and Italy who sailed here from Europe, giving us yet another reason to visit the Med.

Making New Friends

Heading Back After a Fun Day

Rush Hour in Providencia

On our last day, we dinghied over to Catalina Island and walked up to the ruins of Fort Warwick where there still remains canons from the days of Captain Morgan who used Providencia as his base from which he launched his raids.  There is also a legendary hidden treasure there but we were unable to find it.

Landing on Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Beach

Canon Overlooking the Caribbean

View from Santa Catalina Overlooking Anchorage

Morgan's Head

Santa Catalina

Starfish

Later we had one last gathering with the fleet at Bamboo Sea Food before we got Calypso ready for the next leg and took a nap before our midnight departure.

Our Last Gathering With the Fleet

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mike April 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Just fantastic. You guys make me so jealous. Keep up the stories and great photos.

Karl Ingram April 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Now that’s what I am talking about. Great job Susan. oh and that’s the closest Mike will get to a Harley again.

Pat April 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Great, you’re on the go again. I love hearing about your adventures. You do such a good job of writing and phot shots. I am jealous. Still in Gulf Shores until the end of May. Jon is coming for all of May. Thinking of taking a cruise to the Bahamas. Love you guys.

Michelle Oyama April 18, 2013 at 1:57 am

Wow! You are totally my hero, sis!!!
Diving with sharks, swimming with dolphins- really???
And seriously, no one should be allowed to be that sexy in a dive suit…. Va va va voom!!!

Michelle Oyama April 18, 2013 at 2:15 am

All of your writing is so beautifully descriptive, and your photos are breathtaking. Though I must say, my very favorites are the shots you took of Michael and Señor Limachi in Boliva….. Amazing. Love you both!!

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